The European Union (EU) member states issued about 3.2 million first residence permits to non-EU citizens in 2018. The number increased by 0.4% (or 13,000) compared with 2017, continuing the upward trend observed in each of the three previous years.
According to the latest figures published by the statistical office of the EU (Eurostat), family reasons accounted for almost 28% of all first residence permits issued during the last year, employment reasons for 27%, education reasons for 20%, while other reasons, including international protection, accounted for 24%.
The year-on-year increase in the total number of first residence permits was mainly due to the increasing number of first permits issued for education reasons (up by 110,000, or 21%) and family reasons (up by 83,000, or 10%), whereas the number of first permits issued for employment reasons decreased by 124,000 (-12%) and for other reasons by 56,000 (-7%).
One out of five issued in Poland
In 2018, one out of five first residence permits was issued in Poland (635 000, or 20% of total permits issued in the EU), followed by Germany (544 000, or 17%), the United Kingdom (451 000, or 14%), France (265 000, or 8%), Spain (260 000, also 8%), Italy (239 000, or 7%) and Sweden (125 000, or 4%).
Compared to the population of each Member State, the highest rates of first residence permits were recorded in Malta (35 permits issued per thousand population), Cyprus (24), Poland (17), Slovenia (14) and Luxembourg (13). For the EU as a whole, six first residence permits were issued per thousand population.
Poland to work, UK to study, Germany for asylum
Poland with 328 000 permits (or 37% of all permits issued for employment reasons in the EU in 2018) was the top country for employment related permits. The United Kingdom with 190 000 permits (or 30%) was the top country in the EU for education related reasons. With 100 000 or more permits each, Germany (191 000, or 21%), Spain (134 000, or 15%), Italy (122 000, or 13%) and the United Kingdom (101 000, or 11%) were the four Member States with the highest number of permits issued for family reasons in 2018.
Germany was also the top country in the EU for other reasons with 219 000 permits (28%), of which the majority were for refugee status and subsidiary protection (185 000) and protection for humanitarian reasons (23 000).
Employment and family reasons
In thirteen Member States, the largest numbers of permits were issued for employment reasons, with the highest shares observed in Croatia (90% of all residence permits issued in this country), Lithuania (77%), Slovenia (71%) and Slovakia (66%).
In ten Member States, the main reason for issuing residence permits was family related, with the highest shares being recorded in Spain (52% of all residence permits issued in this country), Italy (51%) and Belgium (50%).
Education was the main reason in Ireland (60% of all residence permits issued in this country) and the United Kingdom (42%). The share of other reasons (including international protection) was highest in three Member States: Austria (54% of all residence permits issued in this country), Bulgaria (44%) and Germany (40%).
Main beneficiaries from Ukraine and China
Citizens of Ukraine (527 000 beneficiaries, of which almost 78% in Poland) continued to receive the highest number of permits in the EU, ahead of citizens of China (206 000, of which almost half in the United Kingdom), India (197 000, of which 38% in the United Kingdom), Syria (174 000, of which 71% in Germany), Belarus (138 000, of which 92% in Poland), Morocco (127 000, of which 45% in Spain), the United States (120 000, of which 36% in the United Kingdom), Brazil (88 000, of which 32% in Portugal), Turkey (80 000, of which 29% in Germany) and Russia (75 000, of which 18% in Germany).
More than half (54%) of all first residence permits issued in the EU in 2018 were issued to citizens of these ten countries.